In this thread, I'm going to post all sorts of cool stuff about the XMC-1.
I've been working with the XMC-1 for a few months now, and it's really cool, so I'm going to start with my first impressions about just how cool it is.... After that, this thread will be specifically for information and tips about the XMC-1. This will include interesting facts extracted from the manual; interesting facts NOT in the manual; and other cool stuff to help you take better advantage of the features and capabilities of the XMC-1. You may even get some cool toys... like pictures, screen savers, and such (you'll just have to wait and see about that).
NOTE: THIS THREAD WILL BE LOCKED FROM USER POSTS. There will be a "matching" thread for discussions....... Named (appropriately enough) "XMC-1 : Inside Tips (discussion)"
You can use the discussions thread, well, to discuss stuff posted here....
I'll be reading the discussion thread and will try to post stuff here in response to "areas of popular interest", although I won't promise not to miss a few things, and you can feel free to PM me with suggestions (although I won't promise to get to them all). Give me a week or two to get through my list of stuff that I already plan to post here before hitting me with too many new requests, though..... since there's a good chance that the obvious stuff is already on my list.
As most of you who know me probably already know, I'm not really a huge home theater guy.
I've got a small living room, and I spend most of my recreational time listening to two channel music. I'm really fussy about how my "serious" two channel music sounds, so most of the time when I listen to it I'm using my DC-1 (which I still like very much), and my UMC-200 is pretty much being a very fancy volume control (for two channel listening, I use the 7.1 analog inputs). If I listened to vinyl, I would probably take home an XSP-1 (for vinyl I would want some tone control) - but, then, I don't really do vinyl. The UMC-200 I have now does a great job of handling the videos and movies I do watch. (Incidentally, I mostly use my trusty Oppo 93 - which I may upgrade to an Oppo 103 someday.) I have a pair of Stealth 8's for my main speakers, and a handful of Airmotivs (the old ones) for my surrounds and center (we won't discuss how many speakers I've got in the garage).
For a while now I've had an XMC-1 sitting on my desk (life is hard - yeah, I know ), and it's sort of forcing me to consider changing my lifestyle a bit.
Things used to be simple: You really needed a pre/pro if you wanted to watch movies... because, well, no processor; no surround sound. But, even with a processor as good as the UMC-200, there was always a little purist devil inside me who wouldn't let me play my good 24/192 stuff through the UMC-200 unless I promised to use the 7.1 analog inputs (so I wouldn't, you know, accidentally turn on some processing). And that little guy kept reminding me that, even though going through the UMC-200 didn't make more than the slightest negative impact on the sound, it was still there.... and my nice pristine music was going through a box with computers running inside it.... Luckily, the UMC-200 does have that direct input, and a really nice analog volume control, and since the DC-1 is my main source at the moment, everything works out well; if I had more analog sources, I just wouldn't have been happy without a separate (fully analog) preamp - probably an XSP-1.
Now the dratted XMC-1 has changed everything.....
As an analog preamp, the XMC-1 sounds good.... I don't mean "really good for a processor"; I mean really REALLY good.... as in "as good as most analog preamps you've ever heard - at ANY price". It's NOT "a compromise" or "good enough for movies"; it's good enough to be your analog preamp. (If you haven't had a chance to listen to one yet, just look at the specs; the XMC-1 is quieter, and has less distortion, than the vast majority of analog preamps out there that cost five or ten times what it does.) Even beyond ridiculously impressive numbers, it sounds great. And, for those who find such things de-rigueur, it has balanced inputs and outputs.
As a pre/pro, for video, the XMC-1 has super-clean video switching, does an excellent job of decoding pretty much every audio mode you'll ever need, and has every feature you could even imagine wanting (it would take way too long to list them here - go look at the specs page on the website). It has plenty of inputs and outputs; it has fully configurable parametric equalizers - with it's own test tone generators built in; it even has a big bright display that actually tells you exactly what's going on. Even better, the menu system is so logically laid out that you can actually use all those features. (Although the XMC-1 seems complicated the first time you use it, the learning curve is really fast, and it doesn't take long at all before the menus actually "make sense".)
I also need to mention (and it's easy to forget because you simply get used to it) that the XMC-1 sounds incredibly good EVEN IF YOU GO THROUGH THE PROCESSOR. No more deciding if the benefits of room correction outweigh the "hit" you're going to take in sound quality by going through the processors; the XMC-1 sounds just about as good when you go through the processors as when you don't. Yeah, if you want bass management, you're going to go through the processors - but SO WHAT? I guess, if you wanted to get nit picky, even the XMC-1 sounds a teeny bit better in Reference Stereo mode than in Direct Mode (Direct Mode gives you bass management, and no other processing, but it does use the processor). But, folks, it's awful close. Even going through the analog-to-digital converters, and then through the processor, and then back through the D/A's, the XMC-1 still has way better performance, and sounds better, than most analog preamps out there. And the XMC-1's bass management, done properly by the processor, is cleaner and more accurate than any analog bass management you're going to find...
I'm not saying much about Dirac here because I haven't really played with it much yet. The times I've run it, it sounded scary good, but you really have to live with a room correction system to see how you like the way the results sound in your room and situation. However, I've read enough of the technical information, and heard enough already, to be sold on the fact that Dirac is the best room correction out there.... so it comes down to whether you like room correction or not. (And, if you're looking to make that decision for yourself, doesn't it make sense to do so with the best one out there? Actually, I'll take that one step further.... room correction isn't ever going to live up to its full potential if it's limited by what it's running on... it can't magically make bad sounding hardware sound good... so you've got to start with a truly excellent sounding hardware platform if you want to give it a fair test.)
Isn't it funny how we keep coming back to the XMC-1?
As far as I'm concerned, the XMC-1 really does "break down the wall" between analog audiophile gear and digital pre/pros.
I guess this means that I'm going to have to find room in my rack at home for an XMC-1....
It really is that good....
BUT, like I always say, don't take my word for it (or anyone else's)..... you've got to hear it for yourself.
As you're probably aware of by now, we've just released the first official firmware update for the XMC-1 - version 1.1 . You can find the update, and the instructions, on the bottom of the XMC-1 Product Page. (Obviously, XMC-1's shipped after today will already have the new firmware.)
If you have an XMC-1, then THIS IS AN IMPORTANT UPDATE AND YOU REALLY WANT TO INSTALL IT
It implements one major new feature (Dual Mono subs); it also fixes a handful of small bugs and improves functionality in several places.
For those of you who haven't read about updating the XMC-1 yet, firmware updates on the XMC-1 are REALLY SIMPLE (unlike on some older products ). You just download the update file, put it on a USB stick (it has to be formatted FAT32), plug the stick into your XMC-1, and select "Update Firmware" from the menu. (You can even have your buddy put the file on a stick FOR you; you DON'T need to have a computer connected, and there's no updater software or drivers for it .)
When you do the update, you DON'T have to reset the XMC-1, and your configuration should remain intact (although it never hurts to do a backup).
I do want to note that one of the things we've improved is that we've updated the way the Triggers work to be much more logical than it originally was. As a result, the actual trigger configuration on your XMC-1 (the boxes that are checked) will remain the same when you do the update, BUT THE WAY THEY WORK MAY HAVE CHANGED. Whether anything changes will depend on how you had them configured to begin with, but, if you had anything "interesting" set up, you should take a look at it after the update.
Configuring Triggers (AFTER THE v1.1 FIRMWARE UPDATE)
The XMC-1 has four fully independent triggers, each one of which may be configured to activate an associated piece of trigger-enabled equipment when specific conditions are met. For example, you could use the triggers to activate the amplifiers that power your main front speakers whenever you play music, and the amplifier that powers your surrounds, and your powered subwoofer, only when you’re listening to a surround sound source.
The triggers on the XMC-1 are configured by checking various boxes in the Setup Triggers Menu.
First, each trigger must be configured to be active when the Main Zone, Zone 2, or both zones are On. The trigger will only be active when one or more of the zones it is associated with are active.
Next, each trigger must be configured be associated with one or more Inputs. The trigger will only be active when one or more of the Inputs it is associated with are active.
For triggers associated with Zone 2, the trigger will be active whenever Zone 2 is On AND one of the Inputs associated with that trigger is selected.
For triggers associated with the Main Zone, there is an additional condition that must be met. For the Main Zone, each trigger must also be associated with one or more Speaker groups. The trigger will be active whenever the Main Zone is On, AND one or more of the Inputs associated with that trigger is active, AND one or more of the Speaker groups associated with that trigger is active.
Note: The triggers respond based on how the XMC-1 is configured; the XMC-1 does not detect the presence or absence of an active audio signal on specific channels.
Note: The option to configure associated Speaker groups only pertains to the Main Zone. Therefore, if you only have Zone 2 checked for a particular trigger, the Speakers column will not be displayed. However, if you have both Zone 2 and the Main Zone checked for that trigger, the Speakers column will be displayed; but please remember that the settings in that column ONLY pertain to the Main Zone and don’t affect the status of Zone 2 triggering. Note: All of the XMC-1’s trigger logic is based on how the XMC-1 is currently configured. Whether your XMC-1 will send audio to the Surrounds will depend on which Input you have selected, the Mode you have configured that Input to use, the configuration of the Preset you have associated with that Input - including whether Surrounds are set to None in that Preset, and the source signal itself. If all these conditions are met, such that the XMC-1 is delivering audio content to the Surrounds, then any triggers associated with Surrounds will be active if their other requirements have also been met.
By default, the four triggers on the XMC-1 are configured as follows:
Trigger 1: Main Zone (only), ALL Inputs, ALL Speakers Trigger 2: Zone 2 (only), ALL Inputs Trigger 3: Main Zone AND Zone 2, ALL Inputs, ALL Speakers Trigger 4: Main Zone AND Zone 2, ALL Inputs, ALL Speakers
Note: In many situations, there are multiple ways of configuring the triggers on the XMC-1 to produce a certain result. Also, once a sufficient combination of conditions is met to cause a given trigger to be active, additional redundant conditions will be ignored. For example, if you configure a trigger to be active when a certain input and Surrounds are active, it will be active when that input and a surround sound mode are selected. Configuring that same trigger to also be active when that same input and Fronts are active would be redundant - because the Fronts are always active when the Surrounds are active - but the extra condition won’t affect the end result.
Since triggers are most often used to switch amplifiers On and Off, the triggers on the XMC-1 are normally configured to be disabled when a pair of headphones is plugged into the front panel headphone jack. If you uncheck the Headphone Override box for a particular trigger, this override will be disabled.
Note: The Headphone Override option is useful if you are using one of the XMC-1’s triggers to activate your monitor, and you sometimes watch TV wearing headphones; if you uncheck the Headphone Override for that trigger, that trigger will remain active (assuming the other configured conditions are met), even when headphones are plugged in.
Note: The XMC-1 detects when headphones are connected by sensing a plug physically inserted into the front panel Headphone jack. If you leave a headphone extension - with no headphones attached - plugged into the jack, the XMC-1 will act as if headphones are connected. Also note that, if you use a separate headphone amplifier connected to one of the XMC-1’s outputs, the XMC-1 will be unaware that you’re using headphones.
As an example, let’s assume you have a stereo amplifier which you use to power your Front Left and Front Right speakers, and a five-channel amplifier that you use to power your Surrounds, Backs, and Center speakers. You want both amplifiers to be On when you listen to surround sound movies, but only the Fronts and your stereo amp to be on when you listen to stereo CDs. For this example, we’ll assume that you only use the Main Zone. One way to achieve this result would be to connect your two channel amplifier to Trigger 1, and your five-channel amp to Trigger 3. You would configure Trigger 1 to be activated ONLY by the Main Zone, but leave all the Input boxes checked, and leave all the Speaker boxes checked. This would configure your two-channel amp to be On whenever the Main Zone was on. You would then configure Trigger 3 to be activated ONLY by the Main Zone, leave all the Input boxes checked, but uncheck all Speaker association boxes EXCEPT the box for Surrounds. This would configure your five-channel amp to be On whenever the Main Zone is On and any Input is selected, but ONLY if you have a mode that uses surround sound selected. Your Surrounds will be Off if you’re using Reference Stereo or Direct Mode, but On if you use Dolby TrueHD of PLIIx.